Wednesday, January 24, 2001

Ky. native gets top UK spot

Todd charged with elevating school

By Steve Bailey
The Associated Press

        LEXINGTON — Lexington entrepreneur and former electrical engineering professor Lee Todd was chosen Tuesday to become the University of Kentucky's 11th president.

        Mr. Todd, a western Kentucky native, was the unanimous choice of the 20-member board of trustees over Jon Whitmore, provost at the University of Iowa.

        A third finalist, University of Maryland Provost Gregory Geoffroy, was also a finalist for the presidency at Iowa State University and accepted that job late Monday.

        Mr. Todd, an executive vice president with Lotus Development Corp., will succeed UK President Charles T. Wethington in June. He will be charged with leading the university toward its goal of becoming a Top 20 public research institution.

        The General Assembly has mandated that the University of Kentucky reach Top 20 status by 2020. Gov. Paul Patton and a majority of state legislators have pledged to do whatever they can to help the university reach that plateau.

        During his campus visit last week, Mr. Todd, 54, impressed many with his knowledge of the university and its inner workings. He also vowed to use the corporate connections he has fostered over the years to raise the huge sums of money needed to run an institution that would be competitive with the nation's best.

        His selection, however, was expected to create a stir among scores of faculty members who questioned his ability to run an institution of higher learning because of his limited academic background.

        But running a university — and raising money — also requires business savvy, said Susan Mustian, a UK alumna who lives in Boone County.

        Mrs. Mustian said she was impressed with Mr. Todd's technology background plus his teaching experience. It's also nice that he is a Lexington native and a UK alumnus, she said.

        “I like that he's got a variety of flavors in his background,” said Mrs. Mustian, second vice president of the Northern Kentucky University of Kentucky Alumni Club. “He understands the business side of the university. I think he can take UK where it needs to go.”

        Gov. Paul Patton praised the search committee and the trustees Tuesday for their efforts to get input from university personnel and the community on the presidential selection. The university hosted a series of forums around the state and held open houses with each of the finalists.

        Mr. Patton said he supports the trustees' selection and looks forward to working with Mr. Todd.

        “I know he is aware of the broad responsibilities of our flagship university and will serve all its interests,” Mr. Patton said. “His knowledge of and dedication to the university will allow him to hit the ground running.”

        Born in Earlington, a Hopkins County coal-mining town of fewer than 2,000, Mr. Todd graduated from UK with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 1968 and received his master's and doctorate in the same discipline from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

        After securing several research patents at MIT, Mr. Todd returned to UK in 1974 to teach electrical engineering and stayed for nine years.

        In 1981, Mr. Todd founded Projectron Inc. to manufacture projection cathode ray tubes for the flight simulator industry. He sold that company to Hughes Aircraft Co. in 1990, persuading Hughes to move some of its operation to Kentucky.

        In 1983, Mr. Todd founded DataBeam, a software development company that was bought by IBM's Lotus division in 1998. He stayed on to run the company and was promoted to senior vice president.


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